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A Busy Mom’s Guide to Volunteering

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Your thoughts on volunteering: Love it? Hate it? It’s complicated? Yeah, me too. Here are a few volunteering tips for the fellow busy moms out there!


I was chatting with a friend and assumed she shared my revulsion to zoo field trips. I joked about the sign-up sheet that came home with our kids, and she surprised me by mildly stating “Oh, I love chaperoning!” I was stunned into silence. How do I file that information in my brain? I thought it was common knowledge that chaperoning zoo field trips is the pits of volunteerism. How did we land on such opposite ends? Volunteering for first-grade zoo trips… no, thank you.

But here’s the thing. I’m slowly learning that people are different than me, and enjoy things I don’t, and dislike things I enjoy. It’s taken me way too long, but after many years I’m beginning to see that people are different than me and that’s a very good thing.

A Busy Mom's Guide to Volunteering
Image courtesy of Twenty20. Used By Permission.

These past nine years have been equal parts parenting my children and growing up myself. In raising kids, my own identity has been shaped and morphed. I’m no longer committed to being a perfect parent all the time. I’ve embraced being what I’ve defined as a “good enough” parent. I can’t compete with everyone, or pretend to be thrilled to chaperone field trips. I’m certainly open to change, but I’m learning what I like (and loathe).

So here I land at my point. I don’t volunteer much in the classrooms. It’s hard for me, and I also have a younger son to lug around, so it’s hard on him too. I recently joked with my friend that I may just make it through parenthood without doing a single craft. I’m not great at hanging up their artwork. I don’t really bake with my kids. Many toys don’t have working batteries at our house. My brain no longer has the capacity to help them with math. But! I read great books to them. I listen as they hash out their feelings after school and I volunteer every fall and spring as their soccer coach. I’m a good enough mom!

Being choosy about how I spend my energy helps me enjoy the things I say “yes” to. Our Pinterest culture bombards us with too many ways we need to be perfect parents. I’ve really honed in on soccer as a way I can show up in my kids’ lives, volunteer for our community, and get to know families in our neighborhood. For me, I enjoy it. I’m outside, I get to be in charge and frankly, I love competing, even if we don’t (eye-roll) keep score.

This is good enough parenting for me. I’ve found something that I don’t dread and works for our family. And I’ve surprised myself! While I didn’t initially embrace coaching (there were many desperate emails of “we need coaches” before I finally committed) I’ve learned to love it. Who knew I’d be sitting at my computer in the evenings watching soccer drills and planning out practice? Or I would be so proud of our little team, taking corner kicks and spacing out? And believe it or not, this former oboe player now follows the Champions League and can recite Messi statistics. Our pet fish is named after Mandžukić, and the highlight of last summer was the World Cup. I’m a soccer mom, and it’s just easier if I embrace it.

Because I’ve given a big “yes” to my kids in this way, I feel a lot more comfortable passing on things other parents may enjoy. I have my lane, and I’ll stay in it. R